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The definitions for friend in the dictionary is rudimentary at best. “Someone who has your back.” “Someone who watches out for your best interest.” “Someone who would never purposely lead you into making decisions that aren't good for you.” (This last definition is still out with the jury...I am pretty sure some of my friends lead me astray a few times or maybe it was me I can’t quite remember.)

Yes, all of those definitions are desirable qualities in a friend, but I am always looking for something with a bit deeper meaning. These definitions don’t come close to encompassing what I have come to know, adore, and rely on in my friendships and the friends that have graced my life. I have never had or needed a quantity of friends, but the quality of friends has always been important.

Even as a child, I had the innate ability to choose trustworthy friends and acquaintances with discernment before I even knew what discernment meant. It did not take me long to figure out the superficial type of friends were not my cup of tea. There is a knowingness within us that guides us to the people who can become good friends and companions that you can trust with your tender heart. They can celebrate you when you are at your best and hold you up when you are at your worst.

I have been blessed throughout my life with beautiful, amazing, and incredibly gifted souls. I call them friends. Human angels that seem to appear when I need them the most and they have escorted me along the way on my journey. Friends walk with us on this unknown path, some for only a brief time and others for life. Knowingly or unknowingly each friendship helps shape us from the inside out. Friends help us to stretch in ways that help us grow into the person we are meant to be. They have the ability to reflect back to us who we are and what we need.

All friends have unique qualities and share their attributes with us at different times, at varying levels of depth, and in all kinds of ways. We can make friends from all walks of life, childhood friends, college friends, coworker friends, neighborhood friends, and friends who share our ever-expanding interests.

I made some great friends through my dental office (my kids thought that was weird - no offense Nancy, Dawn, Heidi). You always have the opportunity to make friends where you are during each phase of your life. I have friends that I met through volunteering at my children’s schools and while attending their sporting events. Now that they are all married I have become friends with their wives, their children and their in-laws.

I do not think that there are any limitations as to where and when we can establish a friendship. Not all friends are created equal and can always meet you where you are. The depth at which some are available depends partly on their own experiences, their depth of want, need or insight.

It takes time to build a friendship. I love sharing time with friends over a cup of coffee, a drink, a conversation, a yoga class, a run, or a walk. I built an incredible network of friends at the middle school where I worked for 13 years. Just coming up over the rise in the street out in front of the school I could see their cars in the parking lot. I knew that no matter what the day offered me it was going to be ok at work because I was surrounded by friends. Middle schools are a great training ground for life unfolding in many known and unknown ways. The ability to work with beautifully gifted people in a supportive work environment is an honor. I learned a great deal from these colleagues and hold them all in high regard.

Some friends are great at teaching us what it is to truly laugh out loud. The kind of laughter you feel with your entire body, strange snorting may occur, it's hard to catch your breath and definitely tears will stream down your cheeks. Laughter is an incredible tool at relieving stress and letting go and to not take life too seriously. Life can be so very funny. Laughing is great for the body and the soul. I used to remind my students, as they rolled their eyes at me, smiling is yoga for your face. Try it, you will like it.

Laughter yoga classes are available. You imitate the sounds of laughter until it just bubbles up and out of you. An extremely beneficial lesson in “fake it until you make it.” I highly recommend taking a laughter yoga class. It may seem silly at first, but it is great medicine. The last laughter yoga class I attended I drove a half hour through a rainstorm to get there only to find out, I was the only student that showed up that night. Fear and uncertainty started to rise up in me. I was not sure how this was going to play out, but I stayed. I had to let go of the fear and allow the laughter to bubble up and out of me. The teacher and I practiced laughter yoga and we laughed out loud. I left feeling great with no regrets.

Friends that teach us when to stand up for ourselves and when to take a step back. Friends that have gotten angry with us, but also taught us how to forgive. I have friends to dance with and friends who can be still. Friends that remind us that surrendering is the ability to accept what is. Friends have the innate ability to allow all of the experiences life has to offer to flow between our hearts and theirs with love, acknowledgement, appreciation and affection. They let you know that no matter what happens in life they will be there.

There are the precious few friends that you can cry your heart out to and they don’t walk away. The ones who show up when you are at your worst and your life seems to have been turned upside down and you lose your center. A friend who can listen to your story about losing a good friend who died suddenly at 32 of heart failure, a brother-in-law to lung cancer at 38, and a brother who was also 38 was found dead on the sidewalk outside of a homeless shelter. All in the span of a year and a half. The friend who can lift you up when you stumble or fall down and need remembering on how to get back up.

The amazing friends who can just hear in your voice or see in your eyes that something is not quite right. They hold a sacred space for you to grieve, laugh, cry, rant, or be silent. They do not allow you to move into that space forever. However, they give you the time you need to pull all of your shattered pieces of yourself back together.

Friends come into and out of our lives. We never know how long they will stay or where their journey may take them. I have friends that live near me and friends that live far away. I have friends that I have known most of my life and some that have just recently come into my life. All know me in different ways. Friends are such a beautiful gift to us and so many times they happen to come along at the perfect time. Heaven sent.

Friends have the ability to cultivate parts of us that have been dormant within us and a certain subtle alchemy ignites and our friendship begins. Perhaps, we recognize each other in a certain way from another lifetime. They are the missing pieces we may not have known we were missing until their presence in our lives arrives. I do know that when you have someone or several people you call friends it is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer. I am so incredibly grateful to all of my beautiful friends. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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